LeVert to stay in Brooklyn for title run
Signs reported three-year, $52 million contract extension with Nets
Brooklyn Nets General Manager Sean Marks and Head Coach Kenny Atkinson recognized something in Caris LeVert from the moment they first sat down with him ahead of the 2016 NBA Draft.
“I go back to the draft interview when Kenny and I sat and interviewed Caris, and we left the interview and said, ‘That’s a Brooklyn Net right there,’” Marks recalled.
“Honestly, it was that simple.”
Even simpler was Marks’ decision over the weekend to keep LeVert right here in Brooklyn, extending the Michigan alum’s original rookie contract to the tune of a reported three years and $52.5 million.
By locking up LeVert, the Nets, fresh off their first playoff appearance in four years and the blockbuster offseason acquisitions of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, are making a big commitment to what amounts to their third option behind the recently acquired superstar tandem.
And Marks wasn’t shy about doubling down on LeVert’s fit within the organization he and Atkinson have built here in Brooklyn.
“Caris personifies what it means to be a Brooklyn Net, and we firmly believe his best basketball is in front of him,” Marks said in Monday’s team-issued statement regarding LeVert’s extension.
LeVert began last season, his third here in Downtown Brooklyn, with a flourish, averaging 18.4 points in his first 13 contests before going down with a foot injury, something that haunted him throughout his collegiate career and likely affected his draft status, forcing him to go 20th overall to the Pacers.
Though he was drawing early All-Star consideration, LeVert was sidelined for over 40 games last year, returning in time for Brooklyn’s stretch run to the postseason.
He once again flashed the form that made his extension a no-brainer for Marks during the Nets’ first-round, five-game playoff ouster at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers.
LeVert poured in a team-high 21 points per contest to go with 4.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists while shooting 49.3 percent from the floor and an eye-popping 46.2 percent from three-point range.
The performance under duress, coupled with the resilience LeVert showed in coming back from what many thought would be a season-ending injury, backed up what Marks and Atkinson had noticed when they first met the 25-year-old shooting guard in 2016.
“The growth he has displayed in his first three seasons is a testament to his tireless work ethic, along with an unrelenting will to maximize his talents and achieve team success,” Marks added.
“Our entire organization is excited to continue to have Caris as one of the leaders of our program moving forward.”
LeVert actually celebrated his 25th birthday with the news of the extension on Sunday, and is eager to team with Irving and eventually Durant, who will likely be back to kick off the 2020-21 campaign after recovering from a serious Achilles injury suffered during last year’s NBA Finals.
“No better feeling to start off Year 25. Brooklyn, I can’t wait for what’s next,” he tweeted soon after news of the deal became official.
LeVert has appeared in 168 career games, including 61 starts for Brooklyn, averaging 11.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.0 steals in 24.8 minutes per contest.
The Pickerington, Ohio native was Marks’ first draft pick and remains his best, despite the continued development of more recent selections like center Jarrett Allen and forward Rodions Kurucs.
Now, LeVert will team with backcourt mate Spencer Dinwiddie, Durant, Irving and power forward DeAndre Jordan to give Brooklyn a core group that should challenge for the NBA crown over the next four seasons.
This is something Marks and Atkinson knew he could be a part of from the moment they first sat down with him.
“We had talks within the team and we kind of knew our goals and we knew that [making the playoffs] was definitely one of our goals,” LeVert said shortly after the Nets lost Game 5 to the Sixers to end their campaign.
“Going forward we’re not done yet,” he added. “We feel like we’ve got a long way to go. A lot to get better at. We can’t wait to attack the summer and attack those things.”
In other local pro sports news, the Brooklyn Cyclones forced a three-way tie atop the McNamara Division standings with Monday night’s 2-0 blanking of Vermont in front of 4,113 playoff-hungry fans at Coney Island’s MCU Park.
Garrison Bryant (5-1) pitched 6⅓ brilliant frames, striking out nine and yielding just two hits without issuing a walk for Brooklyn (39-29), which is deadlocked with Aberdeen and Hudson Valley for the first place, with Staten Island sitting just a half-game behind in the McNamara standings.
With eight regular season games remaining, the Cyclones must finish strong to capture the Class A short-season franchise’s first playoff berth since 2012.
Brooklyn fell a half-game shy of that goal last summer.
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